Every time I think I know a bit about comic books, I discover something deep and vast and wonderful and yet completely unknown to me, and I am humbled. I am reminded that what I really do know about comics is how much I don’t know about comics — and pals, that’s the most exciting part!
In this case, it was Lauren, our Friendly Neighborhood Bi herself, who suggested that I check out a Kickstarter project for an Australian comic called KILLEROO: OLD MAN RUFUS. Australian comic books? Of course it tracks that there would be a comics scene in Oz, but somehow it had never occurred to me. And a hell of a scene it is! I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface, but it looks like some cool stuff is happening there! And the best thing about Australian comics? You only have to do the accent in your head if you want to.
Quick poll! Which is the accent most commonly imitated, and usually badly? Is it Irish or Australian? And can I say that someone with either accent (genuine, natch!) can absolutely Get It?
Just a reminder about my remit, team; I read and review comics, crime and all manner of pulp — and I share with you the stuff that I enjoyed and that I feel could use some signal-boosting. If I don’t like something, I’m generally not going to mention it. If I sound like a sales pitch sometimes, it’s because I kinda am! I do want you to check out these things I recommend; maybe buy it and enjoy it, maybe even talk to me about it! I want success and acclaim for the comics and the talent!
Since OLD MAN RUFUS isn’t done yet, I can’t review it yet — the Kickstarter is running to raise costs needed to complete and produce the book. Instead I’ll discuss two other KILLEROO comics, SCARS and SEMPER FIDELIS. I somehow managed to talk myself into review copies of those (though I suspect the KILLEROO guys were just being nice to me as a favor to Lauren), and I am proud to be backing the OLD MAN RUFUS project.
SCARS is the origin story and it gave me a nostalgic vibe to read, which is weird considering I have no experience with Australian comics or creators. There is a earnestness to the artwork that is very endearing, complementing the sweetness that is this child kangaroo-human creature… before the military bastards ruin it, of course.
Rufus is a creature, genetically designed as an Australian super-soldier, more or less. Like Steve Rogers, the secret to this ‘Captain Oz’ died with the scientist who created him. This scientist was also a father figure, and murdered in front of him, traumatizing sweet Rufus into embracing his savage side and fighting his way to freedom. He is found and raised by indigenous Australians, becoming sort of a cross between Tarzan and Wolverine, with more kangaroo.
Can I say how much I love that they used a kangaroo-dude? I am totally getting Tank Girl vibes, which makes complete sense since that’s another Oz comic. Which means, according to my admittedly limited sample set (Killeroo and Tank Girl being pretty much it), Australians are super-fascinated by kangaroos. That makes me happy.
Where SCARS is an origin story and a coming of age tale, SEMPER FI is the story of a fully formed killer ‘roo protecting his adopted family with all of his war skills. Rufus is barely shown for the first third of this tale, again reminding me of Tarzan as he stalks the special ops team trespassing in his territory. The story is carried very nicely in this fashion, developing this field team’s personalities and relationships through banter while Rufus observes from the bush. Then he starts killing ‘em.
If his picking off the soldiers in the jungle one by one starts to feel familiar, the creative team will ‘fess up to PREDATOR having had a place in inspiring some elements of the plot.
Of course, a good story must do more than just collide two factions, and this does not disappoint. In addition to the great violence Rufus takes to the interlopers, we’re shown why his rage is so great. The story gets more complex still and building the CIA field team’s individual personalities earlier pays off very well, with characters making choices that make sense for them as well as furthering the plot.
The art in SEMPER FI is a clean, ‘animated series’ kind of apparently-simple style, which is a tough one to really pull off when doing mature storytelling. Here artist Ignacio Di Meglio quickly demonstrates his ease with handling that creative marriage of simple and complex. He does this by giving characters memorable faces and physiques, drawn consistently and recognizably throughout the comic. His style is exaggerated and very fun, complementing the soldiers’ banter and interplay in the earlier chapters, and pivoting to exciting action with bursts of battle, and some surprisingly sensitive scenes with the indigenous tribe.
Di Meglio’s coloring is also fantastic — I have begun noticing exceptional color work more lately and this is really working here. Most pages use just a couple of colors in a few shades, but artfully used to further the animation-inspired style and also draw your attention to deliver big ‘wow’ moments. Clever use of Zipatone-like dot patterns and simulated wear and scuffing in some of the ink washes brings some of that Bronze Age Comics feel that further adds to my odd sense of almost-nostalgia when reading this comic.
SCARS, the origin story book, was conceived and written by KILLEROO creator Darren Close, with art supplied by Team Art of Awesome, which appears to be an Aussie art studio with a kick ass identity. Apparently there’s been some drama between publisher Close and Team Art of Awesome, which is a shame. I hope they work it out.
SEMPER FIDELIS, the tale of a fully realized Rufus looking after his family with all means at his disposal, is written by Matthew Soall, with art by Ignacio Di Meglio. While SCARS provides an excellent foundation for KILLEROO and my introduction to Australian comics, SEMPER FIDELIS was the real gem of the reading party I had.
You can buy both SCARS and SCARS REMASTERED (spring for the upgrade!) in print or digitally at Big Cartel’s Killeroo Store , as well as a host of other KILLEROO comics that I plan to check out. You can also back OLD MAN RUFUS (a cute take on the ‘Old Man Logan’ concept) at the Kickstarter, which as of this writing is running for another almost 2 weeks. You can grab all sorts of KILLEROO back material as well as back the project to get this new chapter of Rufus’ life off the ground. Take advantage of the favorable US/Australian exchange rate while supporting small comics! Did I mention Kickstart selected OLD MAN RUFUS as a featured project?
Also, check out the official Twitter account for KILLEROO and say hi to the friendly folks who run it! They’re super nice and really into sharing Oz comics with the world. Oh, and don’t tell them I made fun of their accent, okay?
Until next time, amigos, as Charles Dickens said, “Life is made of so many partings welded together.”
Plenty of Pulp, by Max Cage